By Mike Brilliant and Tom Scott
Editor’s Note: With two playoff games in the books, I’ve solicited the contributions of two former writers for the Full Court Press to chip in with playoff coverage. Last season, they gave us their back and forth opinions in a regular column called the “Give and Go”. Thankfully, Mike and Tom “the Chest” Scott are back. As noted in the past, these guys are all about the basketball.
With Game 2 over, another thriller, the question is – Are the bulls a good #7 seed or are the Celtics just a bad #2 seed?
There have been many first round series that have been much closer than anyone expected. Off the top of my head, I can remember the Celtics being involved in quite a few. There was Cleveland back in the mid-eighties. Indiana in 1991 and 1992.
Having said that, I think the Bulls are comparable with the Hawks and the Heat who are the #4 and #5 seeds respectively. Since the acquisitions of Brad Miller and John Salmons, Da Bulls are playing well over .500 basketball. Chicago could be this year’s Atlanta.
So what is/are the Celtics’ problem(s)?
Chicago is even better than that. They might be equal to Orlando. They finished the season 14-7 since March 4th. Orlando was 15-7 and the Celtics were15-6. So clearly they came together after the trade while Rose got used to the league (what rookie wall?). They really remade that team nicely by getting rid of Larry Hughes, Drew Gooden and Nocioni. Brad Miller and John Salmons really round out the team. Salmons is playing good defense on Pierce. They are definitely a team on the rise.
That being said, Boston’s problems really arise from one major issue – Defense. The Bulls are getting transition points all of over the place by out-hustling the Celtics on the break. After the first 8 minutes of Game 2 until the end of the half, the Bulls were pushing when they could. It also helps that they are more athletic than the Celtics.
The help defense is also a problem. Without KG, they are not able to rotate quick enough and to help protect, like when Rose blew by Rondo all throughout Game 1. Then Chicago put up 115 points in Game 2 and they shot 50%. This is way above the average they allowed all season.
I also have to wonder: What happened to the bench?
I agree. The Boston defense over the last two games has been their biggest problem. Giving up 115 points per game is not going to win you many playoff games. Also, Ben Gordon was getting far too many open looks. The Celtics didn’t really pay attention to him until it was too late. He was totally “en fuego.”
Regarding the Boston bench, they obviously didn’t do a great job in the first half of Game 2. Once Rondo and Perkins came out of the game, the Celtics blew their double digit lead almost immediately. It seems like the only players I truly trust off the bench are Eddie House and Leon Powe. Um, make that just House as we won’t be seeing Leon on the floor anytime soon after he tore his left ACL.
Rondo and Perkins were superb in the first half. Their replacements, Stephon Marbury and Mikki Moore? Not so much. I’ll start with Moore. You would think that he should be able to match up with Noah (athletic, slim build) and Brad Miller (a jump shooter). But Moore is a human fouling machine that can’t rebound and can’t seem to grasp the Celtics’ defensive concept.
As for Marbury, not only is he tentative going to hoop, but he somehow lost his outside shot. We know he can’t play on the ball defense, so the Celtics appear to be left with Sebastian Telfair all over again.
Doc Rivers didn’t do the starters any favors either. It seemed like House was the only significant bench player who received minutes in the second half. By the end of the game, it seemed like the offense was stagnant probably due mostly to fatigue. Pierce wasn’t going to the hoop at all. Then again, I’m not sure I can attribute that to fatigue or the lack of calls he’s been getting all series from these minor league NBA refs.
All that said, if there was one guy who should have played more, it’s Tony Allen. As hot as Gordon was in the fourth quarter, why wouldn’t you put Allen on him? I asked the same question in Game 1 when Rose went off for 36.
What’s your forecast for Game 3? Will the Celtics’ road woes from last year’s playoffs continue?
I agree on TA. I was wondering if he was hurt. He would have been a good matchup for Gordon and would have been useful on Rose on Saturday.
I think they can win one in Chicago but I’m not sure it will be Game 3. The crowd will be crazy and the team will definitely feed off that. I guess the biggest hope is that perhaps the Bulls will read their own clippings and may not have the same focus they had in Boston. Conversely, maybe the Celtics can rally around themselves and try to survive in a hostile environment.
Ultimately, they need the defense to be better and they need the offensive movement they had in Game 2. Ray Allen finally decided to move in the second half and it showed. In Game 1 and in the first half of Game 2, he stood around. He wasn’t doing what made him successful, i.e. coming off picks, moving and finding the soft spots.
What happened to Pierce in Game 2? He looked out of the game.
Pierce looked like he was exhausted. How else to explain why he got his jumper blocked by a point guard, Derrick Rose, late in the game? He also was very hesitant to drive to the basket all throughout the game. Then the few times he did, the refs didn’t give him a single call.
Pierce played 43 minutes on Saturday. This is fine, because the game went into overtime, which added 5 minutes to his total. But Doc really put a lot of pressure on the starters Monday with his non-existent substitutions. I remember Doc blew a game by leaving his starters in all second half during Game 2 in 2005 versus Indiana. He’s lucky it didn’t cost him on Monday.
Pierce got outhustled on the block and the out of bounds save and looked like he was out of energy. Now with Powe out, using the bench effectively will be important. They need to continue with rotating substitutions rather than bringing on four bench guys at once. They’ll probably use Marbury on Rose but they might be better off letting him take Hinrich to the hoop and abuse him a bit. Generally speaking, Stephon and Eddie House both need to step up big on Thursday.
Coming attractions on FCP: More “Give and Go” with post-game analysis of Game 3